For the second week in a row, our turning point happened early on in the game. When you have a blowout, the key moment of the game tends to occur in the first quarter. With Pitt's decisive victory yesterday afternoon being keyed by a first half scoring outburst, we begin right after the first play of the game.
Tom Savage took the first snap from center and threw into a slew of New Mexico defenders and was picked off by Dante Caro who returned it to the Panthers' 29. This was exactly the play that die-hard Pitt fans were hoping to avoid. We have all seen this before - an early turnover to a big underdog that leads to a struggling win over an outmanned opponent or, even worse, a big upset and the "same old Panthers" tag.
Fortunately, Pitt's defense would have none of it yesterday. They picked up the offense and that is why this was the moment when things went right for the Panthers. The Lobos went right to their running attack and were stopped by Shane Gordon for a minimal two-yard gain. That was followed by Aaron Donald dropping David Anaya for a two-yard loss. On third and ten, New Mexico's pass fell harmlessly to the turf to set up a long 46-yard field goal attempt. The kick was no good and Pitt was off and running on the next drive.
We could have picked any number of plays after that, but the script for the half is totally different if the defense would have dropped their heads and sulked around after the early turnover. They did not and because of it, Pitt fans were able to have a relaxing and fun day in the sun.